DENVER – Katie Ezell, one of the best competitive female shooters in North Carolina, signed a national letter of intent to join the Ohio State University rifle team on scholarship April 5.
“I’ve actually been shooting since I was 10 years old because I’m an Army brat,” Ezell said. “My dad was in the military so we always had a ton of firearms around the house, and my parents are firm believers that hands-on experience is the best gun safety you can have. When I was 10 years old he took me to the range to shoot a .22 (caliber) pistol and we actually spent six hours there. After that I decided that I wanted to join a pistol team, but since I was 10 years old I couldn’t join the teenage team, so I joined the women’s team because there was no age restriction.”
Ezell spent the next three years shooting pistols competitively against adult women while still in middle school. At the age of 13, she took an interest in skeet shooting and it wasn’t long before she placed second in the 2016 world championships.
After mastering skeet shooting, Ezell changed lanes once again, trying her hand at air rifle and smallbore shooting as a junior in high school.
“I jumped straight into that because I knew I wanted to go to college for shooting,” Ezell said. “Once I started looking into colleges, I realized that there weren’t a lot of colleges with skeet teams, so I needed to make the switch to air rifle right away. I traveled to as many competitions as I could to get my name out there and it’s all just happened very fast.”
Like skeet shooting, Ezell picked up on air rifle quickly, becoming the N.C. American Legion state champion in air rifle 3-position in 2018 and 2019. She has qualified among the top 15 air rifle 3-position shooters in the nation and will compete in the American Legion Nationals in July.
Ezell is also the 2019 N.C. State Junior Olympic champion in smallbore and air rifle, and will serve as North Carolina’s representative at the Junior Olympics in Colorado April 13-18.
“I was really excited when I qualified for the Junior Olympics because I missed it last year by, I think, three points,” Ezell said. “It was very, very tight and I thought I’d be included in the second round of invites in case anyone in the first round couldn’t go, but I didn’t. This year it was definitely a relief to make it.”
Ezell’s shooting proficiency has been honed through years of practice, which includes physically shooting, but also countless hours of work on the process leading up to the shot. Lately, much of Ezell’s work behind the scenes has been spent on the mental aspect of competitive shooting.
“Something I’ve actually just started training on is the mental side of my game,” Ezell said. “A lot of people don’t realize that shooting is 90 percent mental. When you’re sitting there for three-plus hours staring at a tiny dot and you have to put 100 percent of your attention on that tiny dot, it’s very mentally draining. Then on top of that you’ve got your family and your coaches talking behind you, so I’ve been doing a lot of mental training, not only to help with distractions, but also to help me get in my zone while shooting.”
Ezell in nearing graduation at Discovery High School in Newton and will be making the trip to Ohio State University in the fall. She plans to major in neuroscience.